Since Starlink became available in Australia in April 2020, our friends from down under have had to compare starlink vs. NBN to determine the better option.
Elon Musk’s company wasn’t the first satellite internet service in that market; NBN already had its Sky Muster service to connect remote and rural locations.
But starlink has disrupted the market and might be the best thing to happen to rural Australia.
Let’s dive into the comparison to see what the two offer.
Table of Contents
- Starlink vs. NBN: A Brief History
- Starlink vs. NBN: Satellite Constellation
- NBN vs. Starlink: Speed and Latency
- Starlink vs. NBN: Subscription Plans and Prices
- Wrap Up
Starlink vs. NBN: A Brief History
As a division of Elon Musk’s space exploration company, SpaceX, Starlink was publicly announced in January 2015.
Now, it has become one of the leading satellite internet providers globally.
The company had over a million active subscribers by December 2022, with Australia having around 95,000 customers by February 2023.
A starlink Dishy outside a window
The NBN’s (National Broadband Network) high-speed Fiber and satellite internet service began as a campaign pledge announced by the Labor Party before the 2007 election.
The NBN was to deliver the project as a wholesale FTTN (fiber-to-the-node) service to reach about 98% of Australians by June 2016.
The remaining population would get a satellite service to provide broadband internet in their remote locations.
This satellite service became known as Sky Muster, and NBN still operates the system.
Although the company offers Fiber and fixed wireless internet, we will compare Sky Muster with Starlink because they use similar technology.
Starlink vs. NBN: Satellite Constellation
Satellites of Starlink circumnavigate the earth in Low Earth Orbit at an altitude of about 550 km, and the constellation consists of thousands of satellites.
The company has 3,580 space vehicles in orbit (as of Feb 2023) and plans to get that number up to 42,000.
Although incomplete, the service is available in select areas, including the land down under.
So Australian consumers can access the internet service from anywhere on the continent.
A satellite constellation in space
The NBN Sky Muster service only uses two satellites flying in geostationary orbit over 35,000 km above the earth.
The first satellite operates in orbit 140° East and 35,786 km above the equator (north of Australia). After testing, the vehicle became operational in April 2016.
Orbit types in space (Note the difference between GSO and LEO)
NBN Co’s satellite two followed its sibling into orbit four days later, going into orbit at 145° East.
The company had over 100,000 customers as of June 2020, which included retail customers like Activ8me with 35,000+ active Sky Muster connections.
However, this was just after Starlink joined the party.
According to a Guardian article published in 2023, the NBN Sky Muster service is losing customers to Starlink, especially online gamers, due to the low latency Starlink satellites provide.
NBN vs. Starlink: Speed and Latency
Starlink offers Low-Earth-Orbit satellite internet globally, which results in faster speeds and low latency.
For the Standard package, rural customers can expect 20-100 Mbps download speeds and 5-15 Mbps upload speeds with 25-50ms latency.
Eligible customers for Starlink Business can expect 40-220 Mbps download speeds and 8-25 upload speeds with 25-50ms latency.
Considering Starlink promises over 99% service availability, Starlink is the ideal satellite ISP for online gaming.
The highest latency is in the mobile service plans but doesn’t exceed 99ms.
With Muster satellites in geostationary orbit over 35,000 km above the earth, you should expect slower speeds and high latency.
And that is true. NBN satellite speeds max out at 25 Mbps, but the most shocking is latency (a whopping 600 ms).
If you try gaming using this service, expect massive lag and unresponsiveness.
Low latency frustrating an online gamer during a battle
Starlink vs. NBN: Subscription Plans and Prices
This low-latency satellite broadband service offers two service plans (each with three service package categories).
Fixed Service Plan
The fixed service plan contains the standard (residential), business, and RV/best-effort service packages that offer 20-100, 40-220, and 5-50 Mbps download speeds, respectively.
Mobile Service Plan
This plan contains recreational, commercial, and premium service packages that offer 5-50, 40-220, and 60-250 Mbps download speeds, respectively.
But the two most typical ones are Residential and Business.
Residential customers pay an upfront hardware cost (satellite dish, modem, etc.) of $924 and $115 for shipping.
However, Elon Musk’s company discounted the hardware fees to $450 with free shipping, so potential customers should take advantage of this offer.
The Residential plan monthly fee is $139.
The old circular Starlink Dishy
Business customers get faster speeds but at higher costs. The upfront hardware cost is $3,740 plus $155 for shipping.
Then there is the $374 monthly fee.
But there are no data caps or annual contracts, meaning you can cancel the subscription and pay zero early termination fees.
Also, you get a 30-day trial period, so the first month is free.
NBN offers two data plans: Sky Muster and Sky Muster Plus.
This plan is ideal for residential customers and has 16 sub-plans with capped limits.
It features off-peak hours that get metered separately from 1 am to 7 am. And when you exceed your data plan, your upload and download speeds get capped.
Also, the subscription comes with a 30-day or 12-month contract, but the setup is free.
Under the Basic Evening Speed option, you get the following plans.
- 60GB: 20GB anytime data and 40GB off-peak data for $34.95 monthly
- 170GB: 30GB anytime data and 140GB off-peak data for $39.95 monthly
- 195GB: 55GB anytime data and 140GB off-peak data for $49.95 monthly
- 215GB (Special): 75GB anytime data and 140GB off-peak data for $54.95 monthly
- 210GB: 85GB anytime data and 125GB off-peak data for $69.95 monthly
- 215GB: 90GB anytime data and 125GB off-peak data for $74.95 monthly
- 220GB: 95GB anytime data and 125GB off-peak data for $79.95 monthly
- 240GB: 100GB anytime data and 140GB off-peak data for $119.95 monthly
A satellite dish antenna mounted on a roof
The Standard Evening Speed option gives slightly faster speeds for faster browsing and video streaming. It has the following plans.
- 60GB: 20GB anytime data and 40GB off-peak data for $39.95 monthly
- 170GB: 30GB anytime data and 140GB off-peak data for $49.95 monthly
- 210GB (Special): 75GB anytime data and 135GB off-peak data for $54.95 monthly
- 210GB: 85GB anytime data and 125GB off-peak data for $74.95 monthly
- 215GB: 90GB anytime data and 125GB off-peak data for $79.95 monthly
- 220GB: 95GB anytime data and 125GB off-peak data for $84.95 monthly
- 240GB: 100GB anytime data and 140GB off-peak data for $124.95 monthly
- 250GB: 110GB anytime data and 140GB off-peak data for $154.95 monthly
Sky Muster Plus
This plan is more popular than Sky Muster because it features burst speeds (meaning it can exceed the speed limits set on the standard Sky Muster service) and network protection.
But more importantly, it features uncapped content.
An internet satellite in orbit
The service only meters VPN and video streaming traffic from 4 pm to midnight (during peak hours) and deducts it from the peak data allowance. So about 80% of your internet traffic will not have limits (unmetered).
Sky Muster Plus has a 30-day contract length and gives you the following data plans.
- $69.95 monthly: 25GB for peak-hour VPN and video traffic metered traffic, the rest unmetered
- $74.95 monthly: 50GB for peak-hour VPN and video traffic metered traffic, the rest unmetered
- $99.95 monthly: 70GB for peak-hour VPN and video traffic metered traffic, the rest unmetered
- $139.95 monthly: 100GB for peak-hour VPN and video traffic metered traffic, the rest unmetered
- $174.95 monthly: 125GB for peak-hour VPN and video traffic metered traffic, the rest unmetered
- $199.95 monthly: 150GB for peak-hour VPN and video traffic metered traffic, the rest unmetered
In conclusion, the Sky Muster NBN internet service wins when considering affordability. But its speeds, data plans, terms, and conditions are unsuitable for modern home internet usage.
So if you have a 4K TV, gaming console, IoT devices, and many internet users at home, Starlink is the better option.
It might be expensive, but nothing is as annoying as slow internet coupled with low data caps.
But if you live in a traditional setting with no streaming device and 1-2 mobile phone internet users, the Sky Muster satellite service will do.